Posts Tagged Strange Horizons

Strange Horizons, 01/21/08

“How to Hide Your Heart” by Deborah Coates opens, like far too many short stories, in a bar. Thankfully, this one is well worth the read despite the cliched start. We have here a man, nameless perhaps, or maybe not. In truth, he has any and every name he wants. Let’s go with Max. It doesn’t matter. He’s out for the night with Amy, a girl he knows is good for a fuck but won’t have her heart broken come morning. At the bar, Amy introduces him to Beth, a mousy girl that, for the most part, doesn’t matter. Except that she’s their designated driver. And our narrator, despite Amy nibbling at his ear on the ride home, can’t help but notice many things about Beth: the way she can’t smile, the way she’s a fine driver, the way she gets on without getting noticed, the way she might just be the girl he needs…

The story starts out innocent enough, making me wonder just what were in for this time around. There was no clear indication that I was heading into anything speculative fiction, but I don’t give up easily. By the first scene change, we get it. He’s hunting legendary creatures. Dark things. Such as a wendigo. Or, uh, not-zombies. Ahhh. The plot thickens.

“How to Hide Your Heart” turns itself up a notch with some great action scenes as our deep-thinking and somewhat battered Max battles against these Things. Coates has a nice way to her writing, its tone both friendly and familiar. Quite welcoming. I found the descriptions of usually trite details like clothing or friends of a friend to be rather well-done. The ending more than makes up for the beginning, and there’s definitely something appealing in a story that has both kissing and shotgun-weilding. Looking forward to either more of these characters and the Things, as well as other entries from Deborah Coates.

Rating: 8.5 anonymous stars out of 10

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Strange Horizons, 01/14/08

For starters, I naturally assumed “The End of Tin” by Bill Kte’pi opened with a typo:

When Nick Chopper was a boy and not yet tin, they used to say every mirror was haunted.

The bolding is my doing. I guessed Kte’pi meant ten not tin, but I soon learned the error of assuming. And thankfully, I kept on reading. It slowly becomes known that this tin boy eventually grows up to be a tin man…that’s right, a Tin Man. No heart and all. In the land of Oz, too. But he wasn’t always this way. In fact, he used to be a man, a real man with a real body that he called his own before it was stolen. Anyways, one day he spies an odd reflection in one of his magical mirrors, hops through, and…ends up on the other side. Sort of a combination of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland.

That said, I can confirm that Kte’pi has done a far better job with the re-imagining of Oz than Gregory Maguire did in Wicked, even if the story still feels ungrounded at times. The frenetic prose occasionally moves a little too fast, making some scenes a tad unclear. I’m talking about the moment right after Nick crashes through the mirror, as well as the exposition-heavy opening scenes where we really learn a lot of background details and not enough plot-wise. I had trouble figuring out exactly what had happened, and it took a couple re-reads to get there.

Still, I’m an Oz fan and a sucker for anything set in its world. Any of you ever see Return to Oz? It was supposed to be a children’s sequel the kid-friendly, Judy Garland spotlight film. In actuality, it was dark, creepy, and much more closer to the work of L. Frank Baum. And so is “The End of Tin.” This one gets my approval for being violent, dark, and ruthlessly upsetting. Sure, we probably remember the Tin Man as a lovable, melodramatic sod that danced and bounced about until his joints needed some oiling. Not here. Nick Chopper carries an axe for a reason. He wants his body back, but the rules of our world and the rules of Oz differ greatly. Consequences shall rise.

Well recommended. Now, I’m off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz, because because because because becaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaause…

Rating: 8 anonymous stars out of 10

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